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By Richard Pagliaro | May 26, 2017

 
Garbine Muguruza

"I look up to everyday people, especially women that are able to have a career, and a family and run marathons, or help others," says Roland Garros champion Garbiñe Muguruza.

Photo credit: FFT

Champions can exhibit storm chasers’ fearlessness pursuing Grand Slam dreams.

Garbiñe Muguruza conjured a rainbow to realize hers.

Watch: Roland Garros Women's Draw

Lofting a rainbow lob that soared over Serena Williams' head and kissed the back of the baseline, Muguruza dropped her racquet, covered her face with her hands in joy and dropped flat on her back absorbing a brilliant 7-5, 6-4 victory in the Roland Garros final to capture her first career Grand Slam championship last June.

In a rematch of the 2015 Wimbledon final, Muguruza disarmed the defending champion with the depth and pace of her baseline blasts and dethroned her with stunning finesse.

The lone lob she hit all afternoon sealed her first clay-court championship.



So what happens on the other side of the Grand Slam rainbow?

We’re about to find out.

In a clash of the current and former French Open champions, Muguruza opens her title defense against 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone.

The fourth-seeded Spaniard resides in the competitive second quarter of the draw alongside former French Open finalist and 2017 Australian Open runner-up Venus Williams, former Roland Garros semifinalists Dominika Cibulkova, Jelena Jankovic and Timea Bacsinszky, 2012 singles finalist and doubles champion Sara Errani and reigning Roland Garros doubles champion and French favorite Kristina Mladenovic.

The 23-year-old Muguruza knows how to navigate demanding draws.

The flat-hitting power baseliner has won 15 of her last 17 matches in Paris defeating five Grand Slam champions—Serena Williams (in the 2014 second round and 2016 final), Svetlana Kuznetsova, Samantha Stosur, Flavia Pennetta and Angelique Kerber—in that span.

Champions assert defending a Grand Slam championships is one of the toughest tasks in tennis.

Seven-time Roland Garros champion Chrissie Evert says Muguruza’s massive game is undeniable; managing her emotion and mastering her nerve will be keys to her Roland Garros defense.

“I think it’s a very mental and emotional issue with Muguruza more than the game,” Evert told Tennis Now in an ESPN conference call on Wednesday to promote ESPN.com’s Roland Garros coverage. “She’s got the game. We’ve seen it. I think I’ve seen it when her coach has come out on the court. When you’re zeroing in on her with TV, you can see the self-doubt, you can see the insecurity, the frustration that she’s having in matches.

Sometimes, changeover chats between Muguruza and coach Sam Sumyk escalate from tactical talks to reality TV moments of gripes, grimaces and even tears.

“Her relationship with Sam, the back and forth, back and forth, it’s very much like Simona (Halep) and (coach) Darren (Cahill) in the last year, too, until recently,” Evert said. “I think she’s just really nervous and tense, not really comfortable with being at the top of the game, not comfortable with success day in and day out.

“I don’t know if it’s fear of winning, fear of carrying on that responsibility and having that target on your back, having all the attention on you. I don’t know what it is. Kerber is going through the same thing. Both of them I think are going through the same thing mentally and emotionally right now.

Interestingly, Muguruza has played her boldest and most dynamic tennis at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, which do not permit on-court coaching.

“Nobody questions Muguruza when she’s on, her ball striking,” Hall of Famer Pam Shriver told Tennis Now. “I thought about when Victoria Azarenka won back-to-back Australians, because I tried to get a feeling for what might happen with Muguruza. I remember when Azarenka went back, and she did repeat, but she did so in much tougher fashion. It was difficult.

“It’s possible she could go back to the great glory of last year and have great feelings, find the groove again, it’s possible."

Will we see the grand Garbine who dropped the opening set last year then reeled off 14 consecutive sets in a dominant major display? Or will we see the skittish player who has been slowed by a left Achilles and neck injury posting a 3-3 clay-court record this season?

As the clay-court major commences on Sunday, Muguruza is not the most in-form player in the field, but is one of the most fascinating players to follow.

The champion confesses she’s not quite sure what to expect in her first Grand Slam defense.

“I don’t know—I guess we shall see!” Muguruza told Tennis Now. “It is going to be special to be back, however, that’s in the past and we start from zero again. So while I have great memories of the tournament, I will need to ensure a humble and focused approach.”

We caught up with the adidas ambassador for this interview about fashion, inspiration and her state of mind heading into Paris. Muguruza will wear the 2017 adidas by Stella McCartney Barricade Roland Garros collection in Paris. For more on the champion's apparel, please visit this adidas link.  


 

When you believe in your game, nothing can stop you. #MyGame is confident. @garbimuguruza

A post shared by adidas Tennis (@adidastennis) on



Tennis Now: Garbiñe, when you were growing up, who were your favorite players to watch—for their tennis style and fashion style?

Garbiñe Muguruza: The Williams sisters were dominating the circuit when I was young and I looked up to them. Their tennis was clearly superior and they also had a lot of personality off the court, always changing their looks and so stylish. They had personality and you can tell that they feel good about themselves. They oozed confidence.

Among men, Roger Federer is the one I would pick on and off the court. His tennis is very stylish, elegant… And also, off the court, he is a gentleman.

TN: How much input do you provide to adidas in its designs for you? Does it send you sketches or images of the clothes during design process? Can you suggest changes?

Garbiñe Muguruza: The adidas and Stella McCartney teams are great—working so far ahead from when you need your outfit; it’s unbelievable. In Miami for example I was already able to try on the outfits I will be wearing in the first half of 2018! They share a lot and they take in to consideration all my comments so it feels as though we are co-creating these pieces together. I really appreciate how much my comfort is put at the forefront of all design.

TN: What are the most important qualities you need for your on-court clothes?

Garbiñe Muguruza: I need to be certain that my clothes are going follow my in-match movements, and also that they will adapt to the different temperature conditions I compete in. It is essential that I feel comfortable and can remain focused on the game; performance comes first.

But if they can also look good, and make me feel on top of my game, then that’s even better.

Garbine Muguruza
Garbiñe Muguruza wears her adidas by Stella McCartney 2017 Roland Garros Barricade apparel. Photo credit: adidas

TN: Do you have any style favorites, for example sleeveless or certain colors or fabrics that you prefer? Where is the dress you wore to beat Serena at Roland Garros 2016? Where do you keep the trophy?

Garbiñe Muguruza: In terms of cuts, I would always rather play with sleeveless tops or dresses; they are easier to move in and ensure that I remain agile. I always ensure I wear adidas’ Clima technology for temperature regulation, so I never feel uncomfortable. I also prefer dresses over separates as I feel they make more of an impact on court. Last year in Roland Garros I wore separates as the weather wasn’t ideal—raining and cold most of the tournament. Now I keep my outfit and trophy pride of place at home.

TN: After you won Roland Garros, you said a key to the victory was “To believe more that I'm here because I deserve my place here. I earned it.” How does that sense of self-belief help you when you return to defend Roland Garros this year?

Garbiñe Muguruza: I don’t know—I guess we shall see! It is going to be special to be back, however, that’s in the past and we start from zero again. So while I have great memories of the tournament, I will need to ensure a humble and focused approach.

TN: Your family looked so joyous when you won in Paris. How did you celebrate?

Garbiñe Muguruza: After the match I ran over to hug my family, my team and friends—that was the first thing I thought of; less than 45 minutes later the rollercoaster began. I got back to the hotel at around 10 pm after four hours of press, took a quick shower and went to a restaurant where my loved ones were waiting for me. We had a lovely dinner with some great wine and went to bed… I was soooo tired!


 

Ceremonia del sorteo con este campeón! Draw ceremony with this champion! 🏆#CarolinaHerrera #stansmithadidas

A post shared by Garbiñe Muguruza (@garbimuguruza) on



TN: When you reflect on Roland Garros, what moment or emotion from that day or night is most special to you?

Garbiñe Muguruza: There are a few…That instant when the last ball—the lob—was called in and the umpire said “game, set, match”… Hugging my parents and brothers…Waking up in the middle of the night and having the trophy on my bed stand at the hotel.

TN: At the 2016 Roland Garros, you lost the first set you played. Then you won 14 straight sets to win the title. When you get on a roll like that how does it happen? How did you manage the nerves and play so courageously in the final?

Garbiñe Muguruza: When I look back I can say for sure that the first match was key. It was rainy, cold, I was not playing well…but I was able to dig in. I fought hard and managed to come back and win. After that it was a progression. Match after match I was feeling better. Playing better, solid, confident and focused… it was like everything fell in to place.

TN: Do you play the ball or the opponent? Who is the toughest player you ever faced and why?

Garbiñe Muguruza: The level has increased so much nowadays in the WTA Tour that everyone can be a tough opponent. But all comes down to me and how I play…I can be my worst enemy ;-)

TN: Who or what inspires you?

Garbiñe Muguruza: Being the best, competing, overcoming situations and coming out stronger… And I look up to everyday people, especially women that are able to have a career, and a family and run marathons, or help others. There are a lot of everyday great champions out there that do their thing and impact others every day without getting a trophy.



TN: You seem to love music. What do you listen to before you go out court? What do you listen to when you want to relax? What do you listen to when you want to dance?

Garbiñe Muguruza: Everything…. When I have a match or I am going to practice I can listen to latin music, rap, hip hop… For relaxing, I enjoy calmer music… you can check out my lists on Spotify to see!

TN: What is your goal for this season? What’s your long-term goal?

Garbiñe Muguruza: I just want to work hard every day. To be able to get to each match in the best condition possible, fully prepared with a chance to win.

TN: Why did you fall in love with tennis in the first place? What gives you the greatest joy about tennis and your job now? How do you keep that passion for playing and training going strong when it’s such a long, draining season?

Garbiñe Muguruza: I fell in love with tennis because that is all I saw since I was a baby. I have two older brothers who are 11 and 10 years older than I am. They played tennis back in Venezuela so I guess I wanted to be like them and do the same things they did. Tennis is all I know and its all I want to do. It gives me freedom, independence, an opportunity to travel the world, meet lots of people and learn from different cultures… what is better than that? I am so privileged and I don’t allow myself to complain about my life.



TN: If you could borrow any shot from any player in tennis to add to your own game what would it be?

Garbiñe Muguruza: I would mix Federer and Nadal and add the outcome of that to my tennis game.

TN: Do you feel more confidence or more pressure being a Grand Slam champion or do you feel both?

Garbiñe Muguruza: Being a Grand Slam champion is a great feeling, and the pressure that comes with it is a great position to be in. But that it is all in the past and I have to look forward.

The 2017 adidas by Stella McCartney Barricade Roland Garros collection is now available online.

 

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